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With Comeback, Chang Continues His Quest

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 1997; Page C7

NEW YORK, Sept. 2 ó In the minutes after Pete Sampras lost his fourth-round match Monday evening, John McEnroe declared this U.S. Open "an opportunity of a lifetime" for second-seeded Michael Chang, the U.S. player who won one Grand Slam title eight years ago but never has been able to duplicate the feat. Today Chang had to stage the comeback of a lifetime in order to preserve that opportunity.

Trailing Cedric Pioline two sets to one and five games to two in an afternoon match, Chang won 11 of the next 12 games to run a stunned and disheartened Pioline to a 6-3, 0-6, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 defeat. The gutsy comeback gave Chang a berth in the menís quarterfinals, in which he will face No. 10 Marcelo Rios, also a winner today. It also put him one step closer to reaching the one goal that has eluded him for so long.

That goal is another Grand Slam title to add to the one he won at the 1989 French Open at 17. Should he win another one here ó should he win another one ever ó he will have the longest stretch between Slam titles of any male player in history.

It took Samprasís loss, though, for anyone to give Chang much of a shot to win here, no matter that he is the No. 2 player in the world.

"I think it is a great opportunity," said Chang, who lost to Sampras in the final last year. "I have had a lot of great opportunities to win the U.S. Open and have come up a little bit short. Iíd like to to be able to definitely take advantage of it."

Today, Chang put in an effort worthy of the prize for which he pines, refusing to fold in a match that seemed so certain to end with his failure that some fans fell asleep in the late afternoon heat. After losing back-to-back sets, Chang fell behind 5-2 in the fourth set before he rediscovered his ability to play tennis. And Pioline was in for a shock.

Chang held serve, broke Pioline when the Frenchman was serving for the match at 5-3, and never looked back. Pioline ó who lost to Sampras in this yearís Wimbledon final and in the 1993 final here ó never had a match point opportunity, and started to get so tired that he piled up errors.

"When I was leading, he tried to make me run more and make me play more shots, and I was tired and he played well," Pioline said. "I was playing the best I could do."

Once Pioline lost the fourth set, he seemed to lose his confidence, and he probably lost five pounds of water weight as well. Sweating and panting and starting to cramp, Pioline practically collapsed in his chair after Chang won the match on a beautiful forehand down the line. Chang, who is known as the most physically fit player in the menís game, actually looked fresh.

"You fight your way back, you are in the fifth set, and you know that the fifth set, hopefully, is not going to be any longer than an hour," said Chang, who has an 18-9 career record in five-set matches. "You say, 'Well, I have to give whatever I have left.' "

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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